Volume 19, Issue 1 Surveys

Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int’l, 134 S. Ct. 2347 (2014) 

By: Seamus Brugh

Respondents, CLS Bank International and CLS Services Ltd. (collectively, “CLS”), operate an international network that facilitates currency transactions. Petitioner is Alice Corporation Pty., Ltd. (“Alice”), an Australia based company owning four patents on electronic methods and computer programs for financial trading that reduce settlement risk.

Alice claimed that in September of 2002, CLS began using a similar technology. Alice then contacted CLS the following month to inform them of the potential patent infringement, and the companies discussed licensing of the patents.

The patents (“Subject Patents”) claimed a system employing a supervisory institution acting as a third-party intermediary in a financial transaction system wherein parties exchange vouchers for a period, and then settle accounts at a designated time. This supervisory institution would maintain computerized “shadow accounts” calculating each party’s balance—accounting for unsettled vouchers—and would disallow transactions if either “shadow account” showed insufficient funds.

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Verizon v. FCC, 740 F.3d 623 (D.C. Cir. 2014) 

By: Saphaipone Margaret Duangpanya

In this ongoing debate, defendant, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), is a proponent of net neutrality and issued its own set of guidelines in 2005 in an attempt to bolster this principle of Internet openness. The FCC, which was created by the Communications Act of 1934, has the power to regulate telecommunications, and therefore has the authority to enact net neutrality regulations. Though the FCC’s net neutrality rules have no binding legal effect, it used the guidelines in its ongoing policymaking activities to promote Internet openness. Attempting to enforce these guidelines, the FCC issued an order censuring Comcast Corporation for violating its new network neutrality policy.

In 2007, the FCC discovered that Comcast was interfering with its subscribers’ use of peer-to-peer networking applications. In its order, the FCC stated that it believed it had jurisdiction over Comcast’s network management practices, and that Comcast’s practice of interfering with consumer access directly contradicted the FCC’s net neutrality guidelines.6 Despite Comcast’s acquiescence to the order, which required the adoption of new bandwidth management practices, it appealed the order to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that the FCC had no jurisdiction to regulate Comcast’s network management practices. The court agreed with Comcast, and rejected the FCC’s assertion of ancillary jurisdiction, concluding that the Communications Act did not give the FCC the power to regulate broadband Internet. The court further held that the FCC failed to cite any statutory authority that would justify the issuance of its order requiring Internet service providers to comply with network neutral management practices. Although the court found that the FCC lacked the power to enforce its regulation, it suggested that the FCC might have other jurisdictional arguments under the Communications Act.

After Comcast, the FCC released the “Open Internet Order.” The Open Internet Order sought to incorporate the FCC’s net neutrality guidelines into the official regulations of the FCC The proposed code included the 2005 guidelines, which were redrafted into four rules, and also contained three additional rules prohibiting Internet service providers from discriminating amongst lawful Internet connections and content. These new rules, regarding nondiscrimination, anti-blocking, and transparency were challenged by the Plaintiff, Verizon, under a petition for review filed directly with the D.C. Circuit.11 Verizon challenged the Open Internet Order on the following grounds: (1) the FCC lacked the affirmative statutory authority to create the rules; (2) the FCC’s decision to enforce the rules was arbitrary and capricious; (3) the rules violated the provisions of the Communications Act that prohibits the FCC from regulating broadband providers as common carriers; and (4) the rules violated Verizon’s First Amendment right prohibiting uncompensated takings.

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Authors Guild, Inc. v. HathiTrust, 755 F.3d 87 (2d Cir. 2014) 

By: Rebecca McClain

Plaintiffs-appellants are twenty authors and authors’ associations (collectively, the “Authors”) who appeal the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of defendant-appellee. Defendant-appellee is the HathiTrust organization (“HathiTrust”), which consists of eighty member colleges, universities, and nonprofit institutions. The member institutions contributed their library collections to the HathiTrust Digital Library project (“HDL”).

HathiTrust was founded to make the member-institutions’ library collections available in digital format through the HDL. The HDL contains more than ten million written works in digital form. The HDL provides: (1) a full-text searchable database, (2) copyrighted works for print-disabled patrons, and (3) replacement copies of the written works for HathiTrust member institutions. Copies of the collected works are stored on a primary server in Michigan, a secondary server in Indiana, and two backup servers at the University of Michigan. All servers retain copies of the collected works as text-only files as well as digital image files.

HathiTrust argued that the functions of the HDL do not violate copyright law, because it is protected by the fair use doctrine. First, HathiTrust claimed that the results produced from the HDL’s full-text searchable database only reveals the page numbers that the searched for term is found on and does not show the whole text of the work. Second, print-disabled persons must provide a certification of disability prior to accessing the copyrighted works in the HDL. Also, the HDL provides access to these works that the print-disabled may otherwise not be able to receive. Third, obtaining replacement copies of the works is only permitted for member-institutions who owned an original copy of the work that was lost, destroyed, or stolen, and the replacement is no longer obtainable at a fair price.

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POM Wonderful LLC v. Coca-Cola Co., 134 S. Ct. 2228 (2014) 

By: Derek Sagehorn

Petitioner, POM Wonderful LLC (“POM”), produces and sells pomegranate juice blends. Respondent, Coca-Cola Company (“Coca-Cola”), through its Minute Maid Division, also makes and sells juice blends.

POM competes against Coca-Cola in the pomegranate-blueberry juice market. One of Coca-Cola’s juice blends featured a label that advertises the product as “pomegranate blueberry.” The label displayed a message in smaller type below those two prominent words that read “flavored blend of 5 juices.” Despite the prominence of the words “pomegranate” and “blueberry,” Coca-Cola’s product only contained 0.3% pomegranate juice and 0.2% blueberry juice. In even smaller type below the words “flavored blend of 5 juices,” the label read “from concentrate with added ingredients” and “and other natural flavors.”

POM brought suit against Coca-Cola under the Lanham Act claiming that Coca-Cola’s label is deceptive, thereby injuring POM as a competitor. POM claimed that Coca-Cola’s marketing, label, name, and advertising of the juice blend tricks consumers into believing it contained mostly pomegranate and blueberry juice, when it primarily consists of less expensive apple and grape juices. This confusion arguably caused POM to lose business. Consequently, POM sought damages and injunctive relief.

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Am. Broad. Cos., Inc. v. Aereo, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2498 (2014) 

By: McKenna Steere

Respondent, Aereo, Inc. (Aereo), provides a service that allows its subscribers, who pay a monthly fee, to stream television programs over the Internet. Aereo does not own the copyrights to the programs it provides, nor does it have a license to stream the programs publicly. Rather, Aereo’s system is comprised of servers and thousands of antennas that are contained in a central warehouse. When a subscriber registers with Aereo, they can select a show they would like to watch based on a local programming list of those currently being broadcast. Once the selection is made, one of Aereo’s servers individually assigns an antenna to broadcast the selected program, and the transmission is only made available to the individual subscriber. The antenna tunes to the selected program and saves the data in a folder designated to the specific subscriber until several seconds of the program have been saved. Once enough data is saved the subscriber can stream the copy of their selected program. Petitioners are a collection of copyright owners for many of the programs Aereo streams to its subscribers.

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Riley v. California, 134 S. Ct. 2473 (2014) 

By: Caitlin VanCuren

The Supreme Court consolidated the following two cases for appeal: While driving with outdated vehicle registration tags, a police officer stopped Petitioner Riley and subsequently discovered that Riley was also driving with a suspended license. Riley’s car was impounded and loaded handguns were discovered while law enforcement conducted its routine vehicle inventory inspection. Upon Riley’s arrest on weapons charges the officer conducted a search of him and seized his cell phone. Riley’s cell phone contained evidence linking him to gang activity. Ultimately, the officers connected Riley to previously committed crimes and charged him with firing at an occupied vehicle, assault with a semiautomatic firearm, and attempted murder. Furthermore, his cell phone’s photographic and video evidence of gang association enhanced his criminal sentence.

An officer observed Respondent Wurie participating in what looked like a drug sale. Two cell phones were confiscated from Wurie after his arrest. Using pictures and a phone number labeled “my home,” the police unearthed Wurie’s home address. The police subsequently obtained a search warrant for Wurie’s house, and found drugs and drug paraphernalia inside. Wurie was charged with distributing crack cocaine, possessing crack cocaine with the intent to sell, and being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

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O’Bannon v. Nat’l Collegiate Athletic Ass’n, 7 F. Supp. 3d 955 (N.D. Cal. 2014) 

By: Calla Yee

Defendant, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), is a non-profit association that regulates the athletes and athletic programs of its member schools. Among its regulations is a set of rules that bar student-athletes from receiving a share of the revenue the NCAA and its member schools generate from selling licenses to use student-athletes’ names, images, and likenesses. The Plaintiffs are twenty current and former student-athletes who compete or have competed in Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) men’s football teams or Division I basketball teams between 1956 and the present. The Plaintiffs represent a class whose names, likenesses, and/or images may be, or have been, used in game footage or videogames licensed or sold by the NCAA, its co-conspirators, or its licensees.

The Plaintiffs alleged that the NCAA conspired with Electronic Arts, Inc. (EA), a videogame developer, and Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC), a licensing company, to fix the amount current and former student-athletes are paid for their rights of publicity1 at zero dollars.

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